9 Tips to Negotiate Your Starting Salary
By Linda Whitney
How would you like to get a raise before you have the job offer? It is possible, and candidates are doing it right now. Employers are not averse to increasing pay packages to secure the right candidate.
If you have the kind of specialist skill or unique experience that employers are desperately seeking right now, it could pay to negotiate over the starting salary for a new job. Here's how:
1. Benchmark your value. Check vacancies that require your skills and experience, and read relevant trade press articles and statements by recruiters that specialise in your sector. If it turns out that you are a desirable commodity, you stand a good chance of being able to negotiate up the salary quoted in vacancies.
2. Apply for jobs as normal, but try not to get involved in discussions about salary at initial interviews. Asking about salary before you have been offered the job is usually risky because it looks as though you are only interested in the money. For those who plan to negotiate the salary upwards, it's an even bigger mistake. You don't want the employer to rule you out at an early stage because they fear you will be expensive.
3. Meanwhile, prepare your case. Start with the current pay rates for employees like you, and then factor in the extra value you bring based on your special skills, experience, network of contacts, visibility within your sector and greatest successes, expressed in terms of financial benefit to your employer. Work out the amount of extra salary you ideally want, and have solid evidence that shows you are worth it. Base your reasons on the benefits you will bring to the new employer, not the benefits for you.
4. Then work out the amount you will settle for as a compromise. Look at the whole remuneration package, including benefits. If they will not pay the total salary you are looking for, they may be persuaded to make up the shortfall in increased benefits so as to bring the whole package up to a level that suits you.
5. Wait until they offer you the job. Simon Horton, author of Negotiation Mastery, says, "You are strongest when they have offered you the job but not named a figure. Then get in first with a high figure, otherwise they will start low and it will be hard to negotiate upwards." State your ideal figure. You may be lucky; they may simply accept.
6. If they demur, ask why and listen carefully to their reasons. Be prepared to explain why you are asking for more money. Again, stress the benefits for the employer. It will make you a stronger negotiator if you do not see it as an oppositional process. Horton says: "If you enter a deal with a win-lose approach, you will invoke a win-lose approach from the other party." Realise that you are both on the same side – they want you as an employee and you want their job. Then it just becomes a process of working out how you can achieve your mutual goal – both sides win.
7. Have a plan B, such as taking a job with another employer or staying with your existing job. If you have an alternative offer, it may be worth mentioning it. Whether you choose to do this or not, the knowledge that you have an alternative plan will make you a more confident negotiator.
8. Be flexible, but do not compromise too soon or too easily. Be prepared to give them time to think, and to ask for time to think yourself.
9. If all else fails, be prepared to walk away.